Saturday, September 12, 2009

Heritage Trail@Chinatown, where an ox once drove a water cart...

The 1828 Town Plan drawn by Sir Stamford Raffles sets aside this area south of Singapore River for the Chinese community. Swarms of immigrants from southern China came to inhabit here - Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese & Foochows. Each dialect group left its mark on street names and places of worship.
Interestingly, the south Indians also found their niche here, establishing shops, temples and mosques in Chinatown. Today, Chinatown remains the centre of activity for the Chinese, most evidently during festive periods like Chinese New Year.
Singapore Chinatown is made up of several sub-districts, namely Telok Ayer, Kreta Ayer, Bukit Pasoh and Tanjong Pagar. Today, I explore these areas and witness the wonders of architecture and history...
1.Telok Ayer was the original focal point of settlement in Chinatown and is home to many Chinese temples as well as Muslim mosques. The area was the main Chinese commerical district from 1850 to 1870 and is now lined with religious and clan buildings and long rows of shophouses. .

^ Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church, No. 235 Telok Ayer Street, was the first Chinese Methodist Church to be established in Singapore. The building features a distinct Chinese pavilion on its rooftop, upturned roof eaves, and column and beam details reflecting the Art Deco Style. It was so well restored that it received a URA Architectural Heritage Award in 1996.

^ Sian Chor Temple, No. 66 Amoy Street, was built in 1825 and restored in 1998. Its benefactors were both Cantonese and Hakka. The main deity worshipped here is Tua Peh Kong.

^ Former Anglo Chinese School, No. 70 Amoy Street. Imagine ACS was housed in this traditional shophouse which was designed with unfluted columns and pilaters. But a year later, the student population grew and the Chinese community chipped in to build a new school building at Coleman Street.

^ Al-Abrar Mosque, No. 192 Telok Ayer St, was built by China Muslims in 1828-1830. The architecture of this building is a unique blend of the East & West. A minature Islamic palace facade acts as a balustrade above Palladian features at street level.

^ Thian Hock Keng Temple, No. 158 Telok Ayer St, is one of the oldest Chinese temples in Singapore. This Hokkien Taoist Temple was built in 1839-1842 by craftmen using materials brought from China by immigrants.

^ Nagore Durgha Shrine, No. 140 Telok Ayer Street, was built by Chulia Muslims in 1828-1830 with a unique blend of East and West. A minature Islamic palace facade acts as a balustrade above Palladian features at street level.

^ No. 31 & 33 Club Street. Designed in the 1920s, the distinct features of these Art Deco Style buildings were the steeply pitched roof. These buildings now form part of a condominium developement.

^ No. 64 Club Street was once known as Pondok Peranakan Gelam Club, a lodging house for new immigrants from Palau Bawan. It helped them to cope with with life in a foreign land.

^ No. 76 Club Street. Club Street derives its name from the Weekly Entertainment Club housed in this building.

^ Eu Yan Sang, No. 267, 269 & 271 South Bridge Road. These 3 Art Deco shophouses are owned by a company established in 1911 by Eu Tong Sen, a well-known Chinese Philanthropist. It now housed Eu Yan Sang, a Chinese medical hall.

^ No. 255 South Bridge Road, Heng Fatt Yong Kee Pawnshop. These 2-storey Art Deco shophouse has housed a pawnshop since before WWII.
Look at these...

^ beautiful five-foot way...

^ a 1913 Hokkien Association

walk along Club Street and appreciate the beautiful architectural...

2.Kreta Ayer is one of the sections within the Chinatown area. The name "Kreta Ayer" comes from the ox-drawn water carts that used to deliver water to the area. Between 1880 & 1910, many cultural educational and institutional associations were established here. Today, it is known for its bustling streets, festivals and shopping streets.
^ Majestic Theatre, No. 80 Eu Tong Sen Street, was built in 1927 by Eu Tong Sen. Originally meant for staging Cantonese opera but was converted into a cinema after the war. The facade was made of mosaic figures depicting opera actors and actresses.
^ No. 70 Eu Tong Sen Street. This part 6 & part 3-storey Art Deco building was built around 1936 as a hotel with shops and entertainment. Then known as Southern Hotel (Nan Tien), it used to be the tallest building in Chinatown. It was also the 1st Chinese hotel to boast a lift service - a car with collapsible gates working on a pulley system. The cabaret on the rooftop terrace was then a well-know night spot.
These 4-storey buildings were built in the 1930s and are examples of the Art Deco Style. They are formerly Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) quarters for customs workers (The SIT was set up in 1927 to help the colonial government solve the mounting housing problems).
^ left: No. 42 to 50 Mosque Street
^ right: No. 175 to 189 Upper Cross Street
^ No. 38 to 64 Upper Cross Street
^ No. 37 Pagoda Street - This is believed to have been the address of Kwong Hup Yuen, one of the old slave trading firms. Coolie quarters were found on the upper floor where bunk space were constructed to accommodate the maximum numbers of tenants.
^ Sri Mariamman Temple, No. 242 South Bridge Road. Built in 1843, this is Singapore's oldest Hindu temple. It was founded by Naraina Pillay, the Tamil pioneer who accompanied Raffles to Singapore, and was constructed by skilled craftmen from Madras.
^ Jamae Mosque, No. 218 South Bridge Road. One of the oldest mosques in Singapore, this national monument was built in 1826 by Chulia Muslim merchants.
^ Former Lai Chun Yuen, No. 36 Smith Street. This 3-storey building was once occupied by popular Lai Chun Yuen theatre but suffered severe bomb damage during the WWII. The building was restored and the bombed section rebuilt in 1997.
^ Kreta Ayer Complex, No. 355 Smith Street, was built in 1986 on the site where the Kempetai (Japanese Military Police) once occupied during the Japanese Occupation.
^ If you're looking for a cheong sam or traditional costumes or those stuff that one need for a Chinese customary wedding, check out at the 1st storey of this building.
Look at these...
^ left: samsui women came from the Samsui Province of China and emigrated to 'Nanyang' (olden term for Singapore) to work as migrant labourers.
^ right: these uncles working hard at side lane
3.Bukit Pasoh, also known as the "Streets of Clans", where you can find several Chinese cultural and clan associations. It offers charming, winding streets and a mixture of residential, association and commercial activites.
^ Former Oriental Theatre, No. 291 New Bridge Road. This was the site of the 1st theatre to show Chinese movies with sound in Singapore. Before the war, the theatre was known as Palacegay. During the Japanese Occupation, it was called Toho Gekizyo. It was renamed Oriental Theatre when the Shaw Brothers bought it in 1946. The building was subsequently demolished and a new commercial building with cinema was constructed in its place in 1993.
^ No. 281 New Bridge Road. This Art Deco building is home to the Poon Yue Association, which the Chinese philanthropist Hoo Ah Kay, more popularly known as Whampoa helped to form in 1879. The association started a school and provided accomodation for people from Poon Yue distrcit of Guangdong.
^ No. 285 New Bridge Road. This modern building houses the Tung On Wu Koon, an association set up in 1876 by immigrants from the prefectures of Tung Kun and Puo Onn in China. On 1 September 1962, euthusiastic Chinatown residents queued up outside this building in the blazing sun. Their objective: to vote in a referendum on whether Singapore should become a part of Malaysia.

^ No. 73 Keong Saik Road, Sri Vinayagar Temple. Built in 1920, this Hindu temple was dedicated to Ganesha, the elephant-headed god.
^ No. 140 Neil Road. This was the address of the 1st PAP branch in Tanjong Pagar and the Party's HQ from 1955 to 1957.
^ No. 27 & 29 Bukit Pasoh Road. These 2 modern building house the Ching Kang Hui Kuan which was founded in 1928. It was the operational HQ of the Ching Kuo Council for General Mobilisation formed for the defence of Singapore.
^ No. 43 Bukit Pasoh Road. Another Art Deco building designed by Swan and Maclaren, this houese the Ee Hoe Hean Club, one of the oldest millionaire's club in Singapore. Before WWII, it was the focal point of China-oriented political movements among the local Chinese. Today, the club's activities are confined to community service and works of charity.

^ No. 321 New Bridge Road. This elaborately-designed Art Deco building complete with a date plate, house the Kwong Chow Wui Koon, one of the many Cantonese clan associations set up in the early 1920s. it was well-known for its music and opera show.
Look at these...
^ left: the winding streets of Keong Saik Road. The building which is under construction (background) is Pinnancle@Duxton
^ right: restored building along Keong Saik Road
^ This building sits on the junction of Keong Saik Road & Teck Lim Road.
^ The above restored shophouses are now either pub/restaurant or club/association. If you happen to be there, stop for a moment and appreciate those beautiful facades.
^ left: Majestic Hotel@Bukit Pasoh
^ right: No. 68 to 77 Neil Road
^ This beautiful building is a wushu association at No.90 & 92 Neil Rd.
^ This temple is at No. 13 Neil Rd.
^ This unit is at No. 8 Neil Rd. Heard that if the unit number is 'enlarged' means the unit is doing some 'speical business'. Not sure if this is true.
4.Tanjong Pagar was a fishing village until the European established nutmeg plantations and the wealthy Chinese planted fruit orchid in the 1800s. With the opening of the New Harbour (now known as the Keppel Harbour) many workers flocked to the area in the 1850s. But when the nutmeg plantations failed, the land was sold for commerical and residential. Today, there are still many preserved pre-World War II shophouse.
^ The former Jinricksha Station (No.1 Neil Road) - Rickshaws were imported from Japan via Shanghai in th 1880s and became the cheapest and most popular mode of transportation in Singapore. The Jinricksha Station was built in 1903. When rickshaw were replaced by trishaws in 1946, the building was used as Maternity and Child Care Centre. Restored in 1988, it is now a Chinese restaurant and karaoke lounge, but the words "JINRICKSHA STATION" remain etched on it.
^ No. 9A & 11A Neil Road - These are among the 12 shophouses restored by URA in 1988. The pilot restoration project demonstrated the government's commitment to conservation and boosted private sector confidence in conservation.
^ left: No. 9A Neil Road
^ right: No. 11A Neil Road
^ Fairfield Methodist Church (No. 1 Tanjong Pagar Road) -The building began as the Metropole Cinema in the 1960s and was soon converted into the Fairfield Methodist Church in the 1990s.
^ No. 2 to 28 Murray Street - This row of Art Deco shophouses was built in 1929 and restored in 1977 by URA for commercial uses. Known as the Murray Street Food Alley, it features mainly restaurants on the first floor and offices on the upper floors.
^ No. 89 Neil Road - Aw Boon Haw constrcuted this pharmaceutical factory here in the early 1920s. "Eng Aun Tong" (Hall of Everlasting Peace), as it was known, was easily distinguished by its cupola and the giant replica of a Tiger Balm atop of the building. At its peak, millions of jars of the balm relief of aches and pains were produced each month. The building was later taken over by Crocodile House before being restored in 1994. In 1995, it reopened as the French Business Centre housing small and medium sized French companies.
Happy Mid Autumn Festival to the Chinese!!!
(3 Oct 2009)

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

thank you for posting this!